Question: How do we know that everything David or Solomon wrote is true? How do we know that one of the Psalms was not written while David was contemplating sleeping with Bathsheba or a Proverb was written after Solomon got in a fight with his 57th wife?
Answer: There are three issues here in regards to the question of truth.
- Does inspiration of Scripture guarantee that what we have is an accurate record of what they wrote? The answer is yes. Inspiration guarantees that what is attributed to David and Solomon is accurately so attributed and accurately recorded. This, however, does not guarantee that what they wrote is true, just that it is accurately recorded. The words of Satan are accurately recorded, also, but that does not guarantee that what he said is true.
- Did David and Solomon express their true feelings when writing? Yes, absolutely. When David says in Psalm 139:5 that he feels hemmed in by how much God knows his every motive, that is a true feeling. But by the end of the psalm he is inviting God to know him in this way. His feelings have changed in the course of his meditation on God’s knowledge and you can see the change chronicled in the psalm. This encourages us to express to God our true feelings, even if they are not the best feelings to have and are in need of change.
- Did everything David and Solomon wrote have the character of normative truth (true for all people and all times)? Yes and no. David wrote, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Had God actually forsaken him? No, but that is how it felt. When Jesus quotes this verse as He is dying on the cross, however, He is stating a truth that David’s experience forshadowed and it is really true for Jesus, because He bore our guilt before God and God forsook Him as penalty for our guilt. When Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly” in Proverbs 26:4 and then, in 26:5 wrote, “Answer a fool according to his folly,” he was demonstrating part of the genius of proverbial wisdom. There are not always normative absolutes for every situation and Proverbs is not trying to give such absolutes, but rather principles that are normally true but not exhaustively true for every situation.
If we keep these considerations in mind we will be more discerning when reading Scripture and not confuse others or ourselves about what authority Scripture has. It is our authoritative standard for truth. Everything in it is not therefore true, but only those portions that are intended as normative truth. Because, for example, the Bible does not purport to give normative truth about all things astronomical, when it says that the sun rises it is not to be understood that Scripture is asserting that the sun revolves around the earth. But when it tells us that the only way to heaven is Christ and faith in Him, that is definitely within the realm of intended normative truth for us.